Saturday, August 18, 2012

Layer 542 . . . Being Ray Davies

Ray Davies is the most famous Ray Davies on the planet. If you google his name, then THE Ray Davies is the only Ray Davies to appear in the first few pages of search results.

There's a kind of global warmness and fondness for Ray Davies that has built up over the years. He's become some sort of national treasure.

Maybe it was unkind of Oxzen to mention in a recent post how bad Ray's singing was during the Olympics closing ceremony. The guy's getting on for 70, so what can we expect? Personally I expect plenty. Cohen, Dylan, Jagger, and the old blues guys, especially BB King, still sing incredibly well. This sing it like they mean it. They're still brilliant because they're authentic, soulful, natural singers. Ray Davies isn't, and he never was. He's an OK songwriter, and that's about it.

He seems like a very pleasant man. He was on Radio 4's Saturday Live this morning, talking about his upbringing in Muswell Hill, and the fact that he's lived in that part of London for the whole of his life. "I write songs about people, and I happen to feel that the suburbanite kind of person who's not much noticed is quite interesting." Hmmmm. Quite interesting.

It's pretty obvious that Ray Davies is no poet, he has very little in the way of artistic insight into the human condition, and never sets out to raise levels of human awareness or consciousness. A song like "Tired of Waiting for You" has a pleasant enough tune, but it's hardly going to be on anyone's list of desert island discs.

In this Youtube video Ray explains his early enthusiasm for music: "When I was a little boy/ I was just 13 years old / I wanted to be a blues singer / Like John Lee Hooker . . ."

It didn't take very long for Ray to discover he was no John Lee. Pleasant as Ray may be, I'm sticking to what I said about his music losing its appeal (for me) soon after "You Really Got Me" and "All Day and All of the Night". I've now discovered that his brother Dave was responsible for the great guitar riffs that lifted those songs out of the ordinary, and gave them their power and their appeal - which was clearly nothing to do with Ray's very basic lyrics.

Given his well-known antipathy and feud with his brother Dave, it's perhaps not surprising that Ray shifted the Kinks' musical style away from hard-driving R & B, which was Dave's forte, and towards nostalgia, whimsy and easy-listening music hall, which is Ray's real territory.

According to Dave Davies, "Ray's an arsehole".
"Ray sucks me dry of ideas, emotions and creativity. It’s toxic for me to be with him. He’s a control freak".
‘We must be careful. We might be feeding Ray’s illness by making him think he’s more interesting than he is.’
What illness? ‘He’s a narcissist,’ says Dave. ‘I walked into a bookshop a month ago and picked up Tony Blair’s autobiography. I looked at the picture and felt sick. I thought: ‘‘Hello, he’s got the same thing [as Ray]. It’s some sort of ­grandiose disorder.’’ ’
Dave, you see, claims to be something of an expert on vanity and self-delusion. He has spent ‘a good part of my adult life studying metaphysics and psychology’.
Since when exactly? ‘When I first started to realise what an arsehole Ray was. I thought, I’m going to investigate this.’

Read more:

According to Wikipedia, Ray Davies has been diagnosed as having bipolar disorder.

Ironically, having complained about NBC's decision not to broadcast certain sections of the Olympics ceremonies, it turns out that Ray Davies and Muse were two of the performances that were cut. Good call!

The wit and wisdom of Ray Davies. Not.

Easy to love, and impossible to live with:

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